Leveraging Fundraising Basics: Lessons from Giving USA 2022


When the Giving USA 2022 report was released earlier this year, this key finding left many nonprofit professionals concerned: Total dollars given was down 10.5%* to $499.33 billion.

There were a number of reasons given for the change.

  • Inflation is up
  • The S & P Index is down
  • Disposable income is down
  • The number of individuals giving is down 6.4%

But despite those findings, the sky is not falling. After a period of volatility and uncertainty, this was the first sign of donors taking a deep breath and hitting the reset button. Going forward we will begin to see shifts in:

  • Why people give
  • Where they give
  • How they give

Now is the time to brush up on giving basics. Your greatest opportunity lies in first focusing on the activities that support building relationships across the board. All donors matter.


Build a Stronger Pipeline

While we should spend time with potential donors with the capacity to make large gifts, a healthy development program has donors at all levels of giving – small, middle, and large. This provides a broader base of long-term support. And it ensures the long game: that your organization will have a steady stream of supporters with a pride of affinity and loyalty to the mission in the future.

To strengthen your pipeline, do the following for donors of ALL sizes.

  • Keep in touch.
  • Keep sending updates.
  • Get to know them, especially what drives their giving.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Respond promptly, acknowledging gifts by email the day they are received.
  • Issue correct, detailed receipts.
  • Be transparent about where donations go. Donors want to hear how their funds will be used.
  • Send yearly reports on how you used the donated funds.

All the above are pretty basic, but HOW you implement them does not have to be. You can go “old school” – letter, print piece, telephone call, handwritten note, or post card from a participant. You can go personal – invite them to see the impact of their gift in-person; summer bus tour; a Vision Tour; lunch with Executive Director/ Board Chair/ key volunteer; porch social with other donors and volunteers; a Jeffersonian Dinner discussion; invitation to a recognition event. You can go online/digital – shoutout on social media; update via text; update via email; survey; video link; virtual visit or tour. Mix it up, make it fun, but most of all make it informative and make sure you cover the basics for ALL your donors in the pipeline.


Deepen the Engagement

Just as all donors matter, each step of a donor’s journey matters. From Identification to Cultivation to Education to Invitation to Stewardship, the steps along the way should be thoughtfully planned. Now is the time to look at how you do this and seek opportunities to improve your process to one that meets the needs of your current and emerging donors.

  • Use more than online tools to help refine the identification process.
  • Expand your cultivation toolkit beyond newsletters, a coffee or house parties
  • Creating online and digital assets to bring education to life, especially video
  • Initiate thoughtful direct response
  • Refine your stewardship plan to be more than a calendar of communication items

We mention emerging donors because the Giving USA 2022 report measured giving from GenZ for the first time. They show up strong with an average of eleven online gifts and an annual total of $747. Millennials also show a generosity streak with an average of seven online gifts and a total giving of $1323. (The latter actually gave $100 more annually than GenX.) As you look at each step of the Giving Cycle, think about how it is rapidly changing as these two generations step into their philanthropy.

So, in short, giving is stabilizing and setting out on a new course. Your next step is to inspire confidence in all your donors by mastering and then going beyond the basics, focusing on your ENTIRE pipeline and the ENTIRE donor cycle.



*Adjusted for inflation


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Posted by Robyn Furness-Fallin
Robyn Furness-Fallin

Written by Robyn Furness-Fallin

Robyn Furness-Fallin, CFRE, offers financial development and volunteer leadership consulting for nonprofits and higher ed. As a Senior Consultant with DBD Group, Robyn is a shrewd strategist who helps bring clarity and focus to the campaigns she supports.

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